This month we will be focusing on a major component of the vinyasa practice and the practice of yoga on the whole, pranayama or breath control. Specifically we will focus on the breathing technique that we use in every asana class, ujjayi breath. Ujjayi breath is a method of being conscious, being in your body, and, most importantly, being present. Why is this important? Because the present, as Beryl Bender Birch often says, “is all you’ve got!” There is no other moment but the present moment. Everything else, future and past, exists only in our mind and therefore has no connection to present reality. When you practice asana and you breathe evenly and audibly (ujjayi) you are more likely to stay present.
Pranayama is the control of breath, but more specifically the control of prana or life force. When you practice asana, do ujjayi breath, engage your locks, and focus your gaze, your life force is building. The energy in your body is being concentrated and focused. When you worry about the past or future, fret about things that you can’t change, or stress over everyday things your life force is drained and dispersed. The asanas are a counterpose to the physical imbalances we impose on our bodies all day long, the breath is the counterpose for the mental and energetic imbalances we impose on our bodies all day long.
When you’re stressed or upset the common advice is often “Take a deep breath.” In asana practice you have the opportunity to take hundreds of deep breaths! That has got to be a good thing. Be well, keep practicing asana, and breathe fully, audibly, and evenly— often.